Saturday at the Races – Cat’s Hill Crit 2009

Led by a motorcycle, the women's peloton is just a blur as it crests Cat's Hill for the first time Title sponsor Sugar CRM's women's team controling the race early Rolling to the Cat5 start Solo Breakaway A seat and a Coke post race Italian Bike, Japanese Robe More junior style: classical guitar in the pits ZTeam pushing it BMC's Jackson Stewart Celebrates his 2009 Cat's Hill Victory Jackson grinning after the victory Rider and crow take flight from the pack gallery

May 2nd dawned gray and misty in the quiet, affluent backstreets of Los Gatos. The Cat's Hill Classic Criterium was back in town for the 36th time, bringing racers of all ages out to test themselves on the 23% "wall" that gives this race it's punch. I loaded up the car with a small arsenal of camera gear and memory cards in anticipation of nine solid hours of racing.

Beyond the signature hill, the circuit is remarkable for some terrible pavement. If heaving concrete seams, and crumbling asphalt weren't enough to worry the competitors, the showers added a slippery film that threatened to produce a slew of crashes. Ironically, it wasn't until the course dried up late in the day that the race recorded the only serious accident.

The seventy-five minute men's Pro-1-2 was neutralized and then halted while paramedics attended to injured riders. When it finally resumed five fast laps saw BMC's Jackson Stewart take his second podium.

The real cycling fans were out in force... and happily there were fewer clueless pedestrians giving the marshals fits this year.

Postscript: 2500 images edited down to 350 then a selection of 60 for this gallery. I close my eyes and I see riders flashing by me.The intermediate gallery of 350 roughs is now posted.

16 Responses to Saturday at the Races – Cat’s Hill Crit 2009

  1. I’m excited to see your pictures of the race. You take some sweet pictures.

  2. nick holbrow says:

    Great pics i especially liked the one of the “mountain bike” brave fellow.

  3. Veeral Patel says:

    You took some exquisite shots in this crit, love the some of the post processing work you have done especially the b&w ones. I like a few of the hard deck shots you took, like the top two on this page.

    Do you do anything special for the b&w conversions ? As they look really good especially when slotted amongst the colored images. Amazing blend.


    • Veeral,

      The B&Ws are a high contrast treatment I’ve developed in Lightroom. It takes things out to the extreme and then I pull things back in a sequence of moves that have become very intuitive for me. Most club kits are festooned with sponsor logos and to my eye that detracts from the “racing” spirit I’m trying to capture. The B&W treatment helps bring the focus back to the riders and the struggle.


      • Veeral Patel says:

        Thanks for your feedback. I had guessed you were using the high contrast preset but must have made some modifications. It was good to get your confirmation.

        After looking at your work, I am finding my own color work to be rather boring. I didn’t realise the power of B&W till I really got engrossed in a few of your galleries especially the Rapha RollerCross. Especially the shots of the riders on the bikes. Couple of things remained a mystery to me was the lighting and the lens you used. Would it be possible for you to explain your lighting strategy ?

        If I do work out my own B&W treatment in lightroom, I will call it the “Velodramatic B&W Treatment” :-)

        Thanks for the inspiration.

        • The rollercross event was a nightmare to shoot because the stage with the riders went from subdued to full blast stage lights every time a race started. Exposures were all over the map and frankly what I got involved a bit of luck and predicting what the lighting guy would do next. As I recall I shot a good deal without flash using my 85mm f1.2 and 50mm 1.4 wide open.

          Using high ISO and shooting wide open produced noisy files that conveyed some of the grit of the evening. It was Cross-inspired after all. When the floods blasted the stage all I could do was stop down or drop the ISO as fast as I could. After a few races I started to get a feel for the pattern.

          The beauty of digital is you can make adjustments on the fly.

  4. BR says:

    Great work…and thanks for taking these and sharing them.

  5. You sure know how to capture a bike race (and cycling in general) better than anyone else I’ve ever seen. Love your work!

  6. Kurt says:

    Nice work on the photos.

    You captured the strain of the grade on the riders and the Samurai rider is a cool snap.


  7. Ronnie says:

    Very nice photos. Thank you.

  8. MC says:

    You have a great eye. Sweet angles and perspective. Would you consider making some of those 350 available for viewing? I’m looking for some shots of the men’s 5.

  9. Dougie says:

    Your hard work at the computer sifting the wheat from the chaff has produced a great set from this race. Fine photography spaced with close interest for the cycling aficionado, brings the race to life in split second snatches if the action.
    High praise for the hours of tireless shooting, and concentration on whats happening around you too, with the bird flying across and the spitting rider.
    A job well done and shades of things to come in the future.


  10. Vinberg says:

    Your photos are outstanding. Wonderful composition, and like you say, really bring the racing back into the capture. The photos look like speed and pain, rather than a little frozen. Truly outstanding–a lot for me to learn here about my own photography, and a ton to appreciate!

    Our team is really interested in using a photo from your collection for our philanthropic drive this year–is there a way we can contact you about that (feel free to use my email).